The Trick Is To Keep Going

Archive for June, 2009

John Sebastian’s good time music

by on Jun.29, 2009, under Music

John Sebastian has always been a storyteller, particularly in his live solo shows, which he’s been performing now for about 40 years.

john-sebastian-on-stage-small2Sebastian’s charming and engaging style of entertaining creates an immediate connection with his audience as he mixes interesting anecdotes from his career with a type of humor that is so easy to relate to, especially for his contemporaries as he puts it.

Sebastian was at his best on Friday night at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut, threading a narrative throughout his performance that started with his upbringing in Greenwich Village through his formative days with the Lovin’ Spoonful, who enjoyed tremendous success on the singles charts and produced a string of memorable albums in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Before moving on to Sebastian’s set, I have to note the venue, which is quite remarkable in this day and age of mega-stars and large arena rock. Infinity, at one time a supermarket, is on the main street in Norfolk, Route 44. After renovation, it now houses a beautiful bistro at street level with a box office, waiting area and small bar off to the side of the restaurant.

Up a long flight of stairs you find the music hall, which is in a large room with a ceiling perhaps 50 feet high, if not higher, above a small proscenium stage framed in an ornate arch. (continue reading…)

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Butterfield rocks Rockpalast

by on Jun.26, 2009, under Music

I was more than a little surprised but quite pleased to learn a Paul Butterfield performance from the late 1970s was being released this year as part of the Rockpalast DVD Collection.

paul-butterfield-rockpalast1For the uninitiated, Rockpalast is a long-running German TV show that started in the early 1970s and broadcasts live concerts. Many performances from those shows by scores of artists have been officially released or generally available over the years.

This DVD, Paul Butterfield Band Blues Rock Legends Vol. 2,  is part of a new series. Other recently released DVDs from the Rockpalast (which translates as Rock Palace) include John Cipollina, who played with Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane, Commander Cody, Randy California and Spirit, and Dickey Betts.

This concert was filmed long after the heyday of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a revered and highly influential but often overlooked group from the mid-to-late ’60s and early ’70s. Butter was a solo artist at this point, having released the album Put It In Your Ear (1975) and two years after this show North South (1980) on the Bearsville label, neither of which made much of a dent on the sales charts or the public’s perception.

The DVD’s notes state this is Butter’s first European performance. It was taped on September 15, 1978 in Essen at the Grugahalle in a show that also included Alvin Lee and Peter Gabriel. (continue reading…)

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Neil Young Archives: The Concerts

by on Jun.23, 2009, under Music

Three live performances are included in the Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 box set, two of which were actually released in 2008. Of course, that doesn’t include live video footage you can find in hidden tracks and the video log, usually tucked underneath track listing screens, throughout the set.

neil-young-riverboatIf you pre-ordered the set, you also received another previously released concert on DVD/CD, Sugar Mountain Live At the Canterbury House 1968, which I wrote about back in December in this post. Also in that piece, I mentioned a bit about one of the other discs, Live At Massey Hall 1971, which I picked up last year. Live At The Fillmore East 1970 with Crazy Horse and Live At The Riverboat 1969 are the other two performances in the set.

Suffice to say Massey Hall is Young’s best overall performance of these discs. He appears to have fully realized himself as a solo performer by this time despite touring with a rather serious back injury and playing in a brace. But he had found the perfect balance between polished performer and humorous and engaging stage personality.

As is revealed in an Archives meeting elsewhere in the set, he intended to release a live acoustic album from this tour at the time but it was ditched when sessions for the Harvest album began in February 1971. (continue reading…)

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Neko in the studio

by on Jun.21, 2009, under Music

neko-case-oprOregon Public Radio just posted an in-studio session with Neko Case and two of her band members, guitarist Paul Rigby and singer Kelly Hogan. Case performs three songs from her latest, Middle Cyclone: the title track, People Got A Lotta Nerve and after the second interview section she closes with Harry Nilsson’s Don’t Forget Me, sans piano orchestra as on the album, even though it’s not listed on the page.

There are also two fairly lengthy interviews with various snippets of interest. She talks about the album and the natural forces themes that run through it as well as real tornadoes, cigarettes, her new farm in Vermont and her sometimes band The New Pornographers.

Nice performances and a fun interview. A shame that the closest she comes to Connecticut on her current tour are dates in Maine, Vermont and the Newport Folk Festival, all in August. Listen to it at OPR.

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Woodstock revisited

by on Jun.19, 2009, under Music

If you haven’t noticed the Woodstock blitz is on. The 40th anniversary of the most famous rock festival in history is being celebrated with a number of new releases on CD, DVD and Blu-Ray.

woodstock-40thThe only question left is whether Michael Lang, who produced the original festival, will stage anniversary events in August. There were reports earlier this year about free concerts in upstate New York and Berlin, Germany, but nothing is confirmed.

The video of the festival has been re-released by Warner Brothers in at least three versions, a two-disc Special Edition, and a three-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition on DVD and Blu-Ray. It comes in a funky fringed box and features a 225-minute Director’s Cut and an additional three hours of bonus material and previously unreleased performances by artists such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, The Who, The Dead and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, among many others.

Despite all this, there are still performances that won’t be included, most notably The Band. But others such as Creedence and Mountain will be making their first appearance. Blu-Ray will set you back about $60, while DVD can be had for $42. You can find a list of the 18 bonus performances here. (continue reading…)

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Stripped down Crosby, Stills & Nash

by on Jun.17, 2009, under Music

Usually when demos make up an album or are included as bonus tracks, you can often expect rough sonics, less than perfect performances and songwriting that is evolving. On Crosby, Stills & Nash’s recently released Demos, produced by Graham Nash and Joel Bernstein, that’s not the case.

csn-demosThe sound is pristine, the performances near flawless and the songs are fully formed in almost every instance. It’s an easy and pleasant listen. What it lacks is a hint at how most of these tunes changed from the early demo stage to the finished product.

All but one are simply acoustic versions of the songs with basically few changes from the end result. One track by Crosby, Music Is Love from his solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name, is actually the mono log tape of the master take lacking only overdubs.

That’s not to say Demos is of no interest, just not on the level of understanding how the songs came about and evolved.

Each musician has four tracks, with Neil Young contributing to Music Is Love, but the standouts are all by Stephen Stills, who at the time — late ’60s to early ’70s — had to be considered one of the great creative forces in rock. He certainly was the acknowledged leader of CSN and taking into account his output in Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y and his first two solo albums it begs the question: Whatever happened to Stills? But more on that later. (continue reading…)

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Elvis returns to the South

by on Jun.15, 2009, under Music

For his second venture recording in the American South this decade, Elvis Costello enlisted producer T-Bone Burnett, coming off his successful collaboration with Robert Plant and Alison Krause on Raising Sand, for an album with bluegrass musicians.

elvis-costell-secret-albumBut Secret, Profane & Sugarcane is hardly just a bluegrass album. Costello imbues his songs with rock, country blues and jazz sensibilities as well as folk themes built around four songs from an unfinished Hans Christian Anderson opera.

The playing is immaculate in a traditional bluegrass style, no drums, and the songs are vintage Costello, always interesting musically and lyrically stories easy to follow and ringing with truth, depth of emotion and at times a sly whimsy.

The album was recorded in a scant three days in Nashville and each track features the core band of Costello on acoustic guitar, T-Bone on most tracks with a Kay 161 electric, Dennis Crouch, double bass, Stuart Duncan, fiddle/banjo, Jerry Douglas, dobro, Mike Compton, mandolin and the harmony vocal of Jim Lauderdale, who often traces Costello closely throughout entire songs. Emmylou Harris joins them on one song, The Crooked Line. Jeff Taylor plays accordion on three tracks. (continue reading…)

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On the road again

by on Jun.12, 2009, under Music


Photo: Kevin Mazur

Photo: Kevin Mazur

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood began their 2009 tour together in New Jersey at the Izod Center Thursday night. A reprise of their three-night performance in February, 2008, which produced the CD and DVD Live From Madison Square Garden released last month, the two legends stuck to a similar set as in the MSG shows.

The duo again opened with the Blind Faith tune Had To Cry Today, featuring double guitar solos on the tag. Clapton replaced Double Trouble for his blues feature early in the set with Big Maceo’s Tough Luck Blues and J.J. Cale’s After Midnight was moved up to an early spot in the show right after another Cale number Lowdown, the second song of the set.

The acoustic portion of the concert has been altered a bit with Winwood, after playing Georgia On My Mind solo on Hammond organ, joining Clapton for Driftin’ with the rest of the band. Then the two each played acoustic guitar on Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out, Layla and the Blind Faith classic Can’t Find My Way Home.

The Hendrix tribute of Little Wing and Voodoo Chile along with another Cale standard, Cocaine, closed the show with Dear Mr. Fantasy as the encore.

Willie Weeks is back on bass, Chris Stainton, of Joe Cocker and the Grease Band fame, on keyboards, but the drummer is new with Abe Laboriel Jr. replacing Ian Thomas. Also, Michelle John and Sharon White have been added as background singers.

The tour runs through June, ending in Los Angeles on June 30.

Here is the set list courtesy of Where’s Eric!

Had To Cry Today
Low Down
After Midnight
Sleeping In The Ground
Presence Of The Lord
Well Alright
Tough Luck Blues
Tell The Truth
Pearly Queen
No Face, No Name, No Number
Forever Man
Georgia On My Mind
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
Can’t Find My Way Home 
Split Decision
Little Wing
Voodoo Chile

Dear Mr. Fantasy

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Neil Young’s Archive: Buffalo Springfield

by on Jun.10, 2009, under Music

In addition to the three Topanga discs and Early Years (1963-65), I’ve been listening to the Buffalo Springfield disc quite a bit from Neil’s Young’s recently released Archives Box Set.

ny-archive-springfield-coverDisc 1 in the 10-disc set, which I have in DVD format, is titled Early Years (1966-68) and is dedicated to the mid-to-late ’60s group that many of its fans lament over for its short tenure on the rock scene, about two years.

The Springfield were truly one of the great rock groups of the ’60s, but let’s face it, it had too many creative forces within, if that’s possible: namely Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Young. It made for a powerful combination — but only for a while.

The Springfield made two memorable albums, their self-titled debut and Buffalo Springfield Again, during which the group started to fracture. As Young says in a radio interview included on the disc, the third record Last Time Around was not a Buffalo Springfield album at all. It does contain two notable songs from Young, I Am A Child and On The Way Home, which he doesn’t sing lead on, but it’s disjointed.

It’s kind of amusing hearing Young rip Jim Messina, the Springfield’s second bass player, for ruining the mix on the album, since he would shortly use Messina and George Grantham, both of Poco, to record his first solo album. And Young adds that he and Stills really had nothing to do with the album at all. So Disc 1 is culled mainly from the first two Springfield albums with I Am A Child the only track from the third. (continue reading…)

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Over at Wolfgang’s

by on Jun.10, 2009, under Music

Wolfgang’s Vault just posted two must-listen-to concerts: Delaney & Bonnie and Friends from a February, 1970 date at the Fillmore West and Derek and the Dominoes  later that same year at the Fillmore East.

delaney-bonnie-portrait-1The Delaney & Bonnie show features an all-star band with Eric Clapton, who sings I Don’t Know Why from his first solo album, along with Leon Russell, piano, Jim Price, trumpet, Jim Horn and Bobby Keys, sax, now with the Stones, Rita Coolidge on background vocals and future Dominoes Carl Radle, bass, Bobby Whitlock, keyboards, and Jim Gordon, drums.

The set list is a good one with Things Get Better, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, the Robert Johnson tribute Poor Elijah and closer Coming Home, among 10 songs.

The Dominoes gig has many of the band’s staples — Got To Get Better In A Little While, Key To The Highway, Tell The Truth — and material from Clapton’s solo album such as Blues Power, Let It Rain as well as a little Hendrix and Blind Faith.

Both worth checking out.

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